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Sunday 22 March 2020 – Lent 4 10am
1 Samuel 16.1-13 & John 9 DOWNLOAD HERE
If you were thinking of ways that blindness might be cured, probably the last thing you would think of would be to rub mud, made with saliva, onto the eyes of the blind person! In Monday’s lectionary readings we heard of the healing of the leper, Naaman, in the second book of Kings. He was told to wash seven times in the Jordan. This was still a remarkable miracle but it makes more sense to ’wash away’ a disease than to seemingly introduce the possibility of spreading a great deal more disease with spit and mud!
Today we cannot help viewing this miracle from the perspective of living with the impact of all the regulations in place because of Coronavirus. I expect that some of our more fundamentalist brothers and sisters will be suggesting that all this suffering has come because we have sinned. Of course I think this is nonsense, however, I do think that it is worth exploring this miracle with our imagination, as well as with our intellect, as we live with the impact of Coronavirus.
Accepting that at the time of this miracle there were all sorts of beliefs about the curative properties of saliva, to us in 21st century Britain, curing a blind man with mud and spit seems crazy. Part of the point is that with Jesus this peculiar, counterintuitive action, leads to healing – once he washed in the Pool of Siloam, the blind man could see.
We are living in strange days (I wonder how often I have said that over the past few days?) Seeking to live in isolation goes against everything our humanity and our faith says we should be doing. Certainly there are practical things we can do for each other, and for the most vulnerable, but essentially, we all have to live ‘at a distance’ from each other for the next few weeks, maybe months. As we are making these adjustments we can see how flimsy things are that we thought were solid and secure, from full supermarket shelves, to an economy where investments and pensions nearly always grew in value. There are seismic shifts occurring. Is it too dramatic to suggest that for the time being we are looking at the world, and at our lives, through a haze of mud and spit? I am not suggesting that God is administering this crazy anointing as he did to the blind man in the gospel today, but I am suggesting that, from the perspective of faith, maybe ….. maybe ….. as the weeks and months go by, the muddy haze will be washed away and we will begin to see the world with new eyes, we will see the world in a new light?
I often wonder what the blind man in this story did once he could see (yes, I have written a version of that story!) As ever, the gospel does not tell us …. but if you think about it, the blind man’s limited but predictable and sustainable life was turned upside down by this miracle. He had never seen, he had never worked, his only ‘skill’ was begging. Once he could see, where did he go? What did he do? Healing led to bigger challenges than he had ever faced.
Acknowledging the personal cost of what is happening to many, the sickness, the deaths, the worry and the pressure – I wonder if we will, in time, be able to see all of this, as something that helps to open our eyes and to see the world and others in a new light?
If the story of Jesus tells us anything, it tells us that there is always healing to be received, there is always new life to be seized. When we emerge, blinking, into a new day without the threat of an uncontrollable virus …. what are we going to do? How are we going to live? Like the healed blind man, maybe we will see the world and others in a ways we have never seen them before ……. there will be new challenges, new possibilities, new ways of living, and, with Jesus, as ever, new life.
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